Nigeria’s Flying Eagles start the 2013 African Youth Championship in Algeria March 16, with high expectations
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
AS the Flying Eagles of Nigeria prepare for the 2013 African Youth Championship in Algeria, expectations of many football lovers in Nigeria are very high. Football analysts in the country expect the team to win the championship for the seventh time. Most of them are optimistic that the Flying Eagles will make the country proud in the tournament. The two-week championship will start on March 16 and end on March 30.
Etim Esin, former Flying Eagles player, said he expects nothing less than the gold from the team. He hailed the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, for the support it has so far given to all the national teams preparing for different assignments. Esin, who represented Nigeria at the 1987 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile, expressed confidence in the Flying Eagles’ ability to successfully defend the AYC title won two years ago in South Africa.
“The Nigeria Football Federation has been behind the success of all the national teams in recent times and I hope the Flying Eagles will have a good tournament in Algeria. Again, the coach in charge has been with the team for a while and there are some of the players in the previous Flying Eagles team who are still within the age limit and that could turn out to be positive in the end,” Esin said.
According to Esin, there is pressure on the Flying Eagles to retain the championship, but he believed that the number of friendly matches the team played so far would help them in delivering the trophy to Nigeria. “For John Obuh, the coach and his boys, there is a measure of pressure on them to deliver because of Super Eagles’ Nations Cup win. I believe that the friendly matches they played will also help them a lot in the tournament.”
Michael Obasi of Hot FM said he expects a wonderful outing for the Flying Eagles. He claimed that as far as the African Youth Championship is concerned, the Flying Eagles know how to get to the final stage. He noted that as the defending champions, he would not be surprised if the current team wins the trophy. “Looking at the history of the African Youth Championship, the Flying Eagles are always rated as the favourites. I strongly believe that they will go far in the tournament,” he said.
Matthew Edafe sport presenter with Brila FM, Lagos, said he expects Nigeria to, at least, qualify for the semi-finals, to enable the country represent Africa in the World Youth Championship. To him winning the trophy would be a bonus to the team. “Well, it had been a tradition for Nigeria to win the youth championship. I tell you, my expectation is nothing less than the gold. The country needs to retain the trophy to tell the world that we are the powerhouse in African football,” Edafe said.
Meanwhile, Bolaji Abdullahi, sport minister, said the ministry has provided for the team all the necessary support it needs to thrive in Algeria. “As the defending champions, we have to maintain that stance, we are hopeful that the Flying Eagles will do us proud just as their senior counterparts have done. The Super Eagles have set a high standard and we expect the Flying Eagles to continue in that tradition of excellence. The ministry has therefore given them all the support that they need. We want to show the world that our African Cup of Nations triumph was not a fluke and it was achieved through a conscious effort to build an enduring system of football,’’ Abdullahi said.